What is Bruxism?

What is Bruxism?

Bruxism is teeth grinding or clenching. Most individuals don’t even know they’re doing this. Bruxism affects approximately 35 million adults and children in the United States.

Some individuals only grind their teeth while sleeping, this is frequently called nocturnal bruxism. Other people may clench or grind their teeth during the day as well. This is often thought to have a relationship with anxiety or stress. This stress may be induced by a wide variety of causes.

The root cause of bruxism is varied. Some experts perceive bruxism as only a habit. It can also occur as a reaction to misaligned teeth. Bruxism may also occur as a result of neurological disorders that affect facial muscles and cranial nerves and in some cases, it is a side effect of prescription drugs used to treat depression.

Individuals with severe bruxism may cause damage to their teeth or destroy dental fillings. Grinding teeth can cause enamel to be worn away, exposing the softer dentin layer, which may cause tooth sensitivity.

Severe bruxism has caused:

  • Morning Headaches

  • Jaw dysfunction - called TMD

  • Facial pain that is unexplained

You may have bruxism if you experience any of these issues:

  • Morning Headaches

  • Nighttime grinding sound that disturbs someone you sleep with

  • Long-lasting facial pain

  • Painful jaw

  • Tight or painful jaw muscles

  • Broken fillings, damaged teeth, or injured gums

  • Rhythmic jaw muscle contractions

  • Lower jaw swelling


If your child is experiencing any of these symptoms, talk to your dentist. Your dentist can determine if your child has bruxism and how it should be treated.

Your dentist will examine their overall dental health, review any medications they are taking, and ask about the stresses they may be experiencing. If they sleep with another person, the dentist may also ask that person several questions. The dentist will question this person regarding their sleeping habits, particularly any grinding sounds that may be heard at night.

Your dentist will perform an examination with special attention being paid to jaw muscles and the joints of their jaw. Their teeth will also be examined to see if there is grinding evidence. Missing teeth, broken teeth, and the alignment of teeth will also be checked.

This examination may become more detailed if there is a suspicion that your bruxism relates to dental issues. The dentist will examine their bite and see if there is any damage to their gums or teeth due to bruxism. They may also have dental x-rays taken.

It is estimated that almost one third of children clench or grind their teeth, and the rate of bruxism is greatest for those under five years of age. If you have a child that clenches or grinds his/her teeth, discuss this with your dentist. In most instances, a child will stop grinding their teeth as they grow older and not damage their teeth permanently.

Expected Duration of Bruxism

It is estimated that half of all children with bruxism, who are between three and ten years old, will stop by themselves by the time they are thirteen.

In adults and teenagers, the length of time that bruxism persists is dependent upon its root cause. For instance, if bruxism is being caused by chronic stress, bruxism may persist for a long time. On the other hand, if bruxism is caused by a dental issue, it will cease once the teeth are properly aligned and repaired, which often happens within several dental visits.


If the bruxism you are experiencing is stress related, it may help to have professional counseling. You may also want to try some relaxation strategies and it may help to minimize your consumption of stimulants such as caffeine and nicotine.

Bruxism related tooth damage can be prevented in both adults and children. The customary technique for damage prevention is to wear a bite splint or bite plate while sleeping. A bite splint may also help to relive facial muscle and jaw joint pressure.


The treatment used for bruxism depends on its root cause:


If the bruxism you are experience is related to stress, your dentist might recommend counseling, biofeedback exercises, or other relaxation strategies.At times, medications are prescribed to relieve anxiety and help relax jaw muscles.We may also fit you for a bite plate that’s custom-made.

Dental problems

If the bruxism you are experiencing is related to dental problems, your dentist will most likely align your teeth. In cases that are severe, your dentist may have to use crowns or onlays to completely reshape biting surfaces. Your dentist may also make a custom bite splint or mouth guard, which will prevent your teeth from further damage. In some instances, it can even help with realignment.


If bruxism develops as a side effect of an antidepressant medication, there are a couple of remedies you may pursue. You may ask the prescribing physician to switch to a different medication or prescribe an additional medication that will counteract the bruxism.


Even in the absence of treatment, at least half of children with bruxism stop having this issue by the time they are thirteen. In the interim time period, before a child stops teeth grinding, the child may be fitted with a bite plate for night time use to prevent tooth wear. This device works well on nearly every child who uses it as directed.

For teenagers, the prognosis is also excellent if bruxism is properly treated.

If you would like to schedule an appointment with one of our Ormond Beach or Port Orange pediatric dentists, please call us or request an appointment online.

Barnes, McDonnell & Parsons